A few weeks ago, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia used the “Mismatch Theory of Affirmative Action” to question the position of the University of Texas attorney arguing for the use of race as one of several factors in admitting students to that school. One version of “Mismatch theory,” a favorite of anti-affirmative action advocates, holds that “beneficiaries of affirmative action who are admitted to more competitive colleges may do worse academically (and feel worse about themselves as a result) than if they enrolled at less selective colleges that wouldn’t have considered their race or ethnicity. Further, Clarence Thomas, Ward Connerly and other advocates of this theory argue that, “eliminating the consideration of race from admissions decisions wouldn’t just help White or Asian applicants, but would also help Black and Latino students,” by placing them where they would be more comfortable. Another version says “affirmative action ‘mismatches’ Black students at top tier universities (including undergraduate schools, law schools, medical and other professional schools) where their lower entering standardized test scores and undergraduate grades place them at an academic disadvantage producing lower grades, lower graduation rates, and lower advancement to graduate education and beyond. Most controversially, those who espouse this view argue, usually as a non sequitur, that if affirmative action ended, African Americans would “cascade” to admissions at lower-ranked professional schools where they would perform dramatically better, causing a significant net percentage increase in the number of new Black lawyers (doctors, etc.).”

There is no doubt that advocates of this version of “reverse discrimination” have dominated the conversations regarding educational affirmative action in the U.S.A. thus far in this century, and they have managed to put affirmative action into a long retreat. There has not been much good news about affirmative action lately. Black enrollments are down at UC Berkeley, UCLA and other prestigious schools.

The situation of Xavier University offers profound food for thought against the notion of always-underprepared and under-performing Black students. Xavier University is in Louisiana, and is a small-college member of the HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). Its current campus is in the Gert Town part of western New Orleans near the expressway, and away from the high-rent part of the city. Xavier, in a resilient rebound from Hurricane Katrina, currently has an enrolled student population of approximately 3,000, and has the unique distinction of annually producing more qualified Black students who apply to, get admitted to and who then graduate from top-flight American medical schools than any other institution in the country. Xavier sends more Black students than the University of Michigan or the University of Florida, and more than elite ivy leaguers like Harvard and Yale. Xavier also stands tall as the number-one college in the U.S.A. in graduating Black students with bachelor’s degrees in biology and physics; and it ranks in the top four colleges/universities which graduate Black pharmacists. Additionally, Xavier ranks third in the nation in Black graduates who go on to earn doctorates in science and engineering.

And Xavier is not a rich, well-endowed school either. In fact, Xavier has earned these outstanding results through sheer consistent hard work. Xavier’s entire science program is housed in a single campus building, and Xavier’s student population mainly comes from students who are the first in their families to attend college, and who finance their education through Pell grants, student loans and work study. And still, they (rise) excel.

In spite of millions of obstacles in their way, they still represent the Black communities of old, which prided themselves on forging forward to get a good education at all costs, believing education would set Black folks free.

It’s nice to hear that we aren’t all crazy and we have not all given up. Thanks, Xavier.

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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